Summer League Takeaways: How Paolo, Chet, & Jabari Impact Their Team

With Summer League in full swing, there has been ample opportunity for rookies and young players to show off their game. It’s hardly an accurate trajectory of their NBA career, but Summer League can provide glimpses into a player’s strengths and weaknesses. Here are the biggest takeaways so far from Summer League and how they translate to the 2022/23 season. 

Paolo Banchero was the correct selection at 1st overall

The one word to describe Banchero’s game: effortless. He immediately looked physically imposing while playing buttery-smooth at his own pace. He scored in a variety of ways that look translatable to the NBA. He hit a step-back three, scored off of a spin move from a dribble hand off, and swished a tough fadeaway in the post. His skilled isolation scoring pairs nicely with his efficient cutting and solid spot up shooting. Banchero lacks glaring weaknesses in his scoring, and he projects as a 28 PPG guy eventually.

Paolo also impressed as a playmaker due to his effective ball handling and crystal clear court vision. He’s passing guys open like a veteran point guard, and the Magic will be able to use him in a point-forward role. Defenders will find it difficult to stop Banchero since he can isolate them for a bucket or fling cross-court passes for a three-pointer.

Banchero even answered some defensive questions, as he looked engaged and disruptive. He made his rotations cleanly, helped inside, and defended smaller guards well. Overall, Paolo is a complete player who has the ability to dominate the league for a decade. 

The Oklahoma City Thunder will make the play-in 

The Thunder had the 2nd worst record in the Western Conference last season, but they will make a huge leap this year. Their perimeter defense was solid, as they owned the 2nd best isolation defense and ranked 3rd defending the pick and roll ball handler. However, the interior defense was atrocious because their center rotation consisted of Derrick Favors and Mike Muscala. Chet Holmgren, who has 14 blocks in 4 Summer League games, is stifling opponents at the rim and using all of his 7’6” wingspan. Giddey, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Dort finally have some help behind them when ball handlers get past them. Jalen Williams and Ousmane Dieng have also played well defensively, and they add more length to the wing rotation. 

Their biggest flaw, though, was their shooting. Oklahoma City ranked last in FG%, 3PT%, and spot up offense. Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey constantly drived and kicked out of the double team, but teammates couldn’t punish the opponent. Holmgren and Jalen Williams are excellent three-point shooters, and Dort’s shot improved tremendously last season. With increased shooting efficiency, defenders cannot constantly trap Gilgeous-Alexander, who was one of the most doubled players in the entire NBA. The Thunder can field many two-way players with unique skill sets, and the ball movement will be incredible. Barring injuries and tanking, the Thunder will be a nuisance in the play-in. 

The Houston Rockets will be average at defense 

Houston finished the 2021/22 season with a 116.4 Defensive Rating – the worst mark in the league. However, Summer League has emphasized the defensive talent set to join the roster. Jabari Smith Jr  is a 6’10” forward who has a 7’1” wingspan and the mobility to stay glued to guards on the perimeter. His defense has been outstanding, especially on switches. In the play below, Jabari stays low and mirrors Blake Wesley, who is known for his burst. Wesley is able to gain a slight advantage, but Jabari’s length and timing allow him to recover instantly for the block. 

Jabari wasn’t the only defensive nightmare for opponents, as fellow rookie Tari Eason terrorized ball handlers. Despite standing 6’8”, Eason sports a 7’2” wingspan and unbelievable motor. He excelled reaching inside as a help defender and slid his feet on the perimeter with ease. The passing lanes were never safe with Eason and Jabari patrolling. When Jabari and Eason are on the court, the Rockets will have two giant forwards who can switch without hesitation and halt the ball handler in his tracks. 

And although Jabari and Eason highlighted their defense, second year guard Josh Christopher flashed impressive defensive chops. The hyper-athletic guard flew all over the court and constantly collected steals and blocks. Christopher can provide point of attack defense, and he displayed enough playmaking to warrant point guard minutes. When the Rockets combine these pieces with Jae’Sean Tate and a rapidly improving Jalen Green, they will not be pushovers on defense anymore. 

Braxton has been writing for Lineups since December 2021 with the majority of his articles focused on the NBA. He is currently a senior at the University of Pennsylvania where he has spent the last few years working with various UPenn athletics teams and contributing to the UPenn Sports Analytics Group.

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